According to the Pew Research Center, 77 percent of Americans own a smartphone. Among those millions of people essentially carting around a miniature computer in their purse or pocket: most—if not all—of your employees.
There’s no denying the benefits smartphones and other forms of remote access technology have for businesses. Doctor’s office or hair salon waiting areas have become a prime real estate for answering emails. And who doesn’t prefer the couch (and perhaps a glass of wine) to the office computer when putting together wedding proposals?
However, that boost in productivity doesn’t come without some drawbacks. Read more.
Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), non-exempt employees must be paid at least the applicable minimum wage for all hours that they work. “This includes time that an employee spends managing emails, answering calls, or doing other work outside your shop,” said Jessica Summers, an attorney at Paley-Rothman in Bethesda, Maryland. “Many employers don’t know, or have record of, when or how much an employee is working.”
During the Obama administration, the Department of Labor was preparing to gather information about the use of technology in the workplace with the expectation that this would lead to new regulations with the FLSA. Although it remains to be seen how the Trump administration tackles the issue, Summers recommends that employers take steps to mitigate the risk of wage and hour claims arising from afterhours work, such as:
- Eliminating outside access for some or all non-exempt employees. This straightforward, “but sometimes unfeasible” move prevents workers from downloading company emails on mobile devices or logging in on their personal computers.
- Require permission for off-the-clock work. It’s a good idea to craft clear written policies, such as prohibiting employees to work afterhours unless they have advanced approval to do so. “Under such a policy, if the employee does unapproved work outside the workplace, the employee will still need to be credited and paid for that time,” Summers said. “But the employer can discipline the employee for violating the policy.”
- Implement a timekeeping system. Even if you’ve taken the above efforts to restrict after hours work, the opportunity can still occur. “For example, the employee might receive a work-related phone call or bring a hard-copy document home to work on,” Summers said. Ergo, it’s critical that employers have a way to keep track of offsite work. “The traditional system where employees punch in when they arrive and out for breaks and at the end of the day will need to be supplemented,” she said.
- Train supervisors and managers. They need a clear understanding of the company’s rules about outside work by non-exempt employees and should be responsible for following and enforcing the rules. “Supervisors or managers who ask or employees to work outside the office when company policy prohibits it or who dissuade employees from reporting outside work will undermine the steps the company has taken to protect itself,” Summers said.
- Conduct a wage and hour audit. “Since the major concerns with off-the-clock work relate to non-exempt employees, it’s wise to check employees are properly classified.”
Summers also weighed in on other hot issues concerning employees and smartphones, including distracted driving and disseminating confidential company information. Read more in “Managing the Risks of Employee Cellphone Use.”
SAF members may receive free legal advice from Summers or another Paley-Rothman attorney anytime. Call Paula A. Calimafde at (301) 951-9325 and mention that you belong to the Society of American Florists.